The City of Rahway will not appeal a judge’s ruling that body camera video of traffic stops in the case of the mayor’s car crashes must be made available to the public.
In an email late Friday afternoon, City Clerk Rayna Harris followed up on her original April 19 response to an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request that provided police reports and other information related to the car crash but denied release of body camera footage. The records are too large to be emailed and instead have been saved on 11 discs available for pickup at City Hall (This post will be updated once the records are obtained later today). The total cost is $11 ($1 per disk).
UPDATE: I picked up the 11 discs and ran into some difficulty viewing them on my computer and also working to see if I’ll be able to upload them to the site.
July 18 UPDATE: It appears the best way to view the videos on a Mac is QuickTime player. It doesn’t appear that the dashboard camera can be uploaded off the discs but the body camera footage provides more context given that there is audio. Each responding officer’s clips can be accessed through the Google Drive links below, followed by the length of each (much of the footage is mind-numbingly boring, FYI). The clips are arranged in about as chronological order as possible:
- Aug. 26, 2016 – P.O. Power (26:25)
- Aug. 26, 2016 – P.O. Gliwa (3:47)
- Aug. 26, 2016 – Lt. Schwartzbach (15:40)
- March 18, 2017 – P.O. Scaturro (45:56)
- March 18, 2017 – Lt. Sherrier #1 (19:22 – relevant portion begins ~10:00)
- March 18, 2017 – Lt. Sherrier #2 (13:08)
C.J. Griffin of Pashman Stein Walder Hayden, who represented RahwayRising.com in the challenge to the city’s public records denial, filed an order last week but it hadn’t yet been signed by the judge.
Union County Superior Court Judge Robert Mega ruled on July 7 that body camera footage should be released, saying that the city did not establish that the ongoing investigation or criminal investigatory records exemption applied.
RahwayRising.com originally filed an OPRA request in April for body camera video, police reporters and insurance and auto repair invoices related to the incidents. The clerk’s office provided the documents but denied access to the video and this website challenged that decision in court.
Mayor Samson Steinman’s first car crash occurred Aug. 26 on Central Avenue near Pierpont Street and the second occurred on March 18 on Kline Place. The mayor took a medical leave shortly after the second crash and upon his return said he underwent in-patient treatment for bipolar disorder.
The judge denied a motion by the city asking to stay proceedings until the Supreme Court issued a decision in North Jersey Media Group v. Township of Lyndhurst, a case that pertains to dashboard camera footage of a motor vehicle chase and police-involved shooting. A decision in that case came down days later.